Americans United for the Separation of Church and State on Thursday called for the IRS to investigate Sioux City-based church, Cornerstone World Outreach. “Rev.” Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United, isn’t happy that the church encouraging its members to oust three of the Iowa Supreme Court justices up for retention because of their decision to overturn Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act.
And they has the *audacity* to encourage other pastors and churches to do the same. Lynn complains in Thursday’s press release:
I don’t think I have ever seen a more outrageous effort to politicize churches. This deplorable scheme seeks to turn houses of worship into dens of inequity and intolerance. I call on the IRS to move swiftly to put a stop to this outrage.
It’s bad enough that the leaders of this church are using donations from the collection plate to fund a hardball political operation. It’s even more appalling that they are doing so in a bigoted attempt to deny civil rights to a targeted minority. This is downright shameful.
Lynn’s group filed a complaint with the IRS.
While there is disagreement even within the evangelical community about whether or not pulpit endorsements are a good thing. As a pastor in the majority of elections I would not, mainly because I wanted to focus on the Gospel when I preached. That said, I do see the retention election differently as the electorate typically is given zero information about the judges and there needs to be a public debate on the issue (not to this is an issue on which the Church can and should be speaking out on). Also with any election or moral issue (which is then defined as political in an effort to keep churches from discussing it) it is one thing for a church and a pastor to decide not to speak out from the pulpit. It is quite another for the IRS to say what they can and can’t say.
Some will say that the tax-exempt status of a church is a federal subsidy, but Alliance Defense Fund Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley in a press release encouraging churches to speak out last Sunday on “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” says that isn’t the case:
Churches were completely free to preach about candidates from the day that the Constitution was ratified in 1788 until 1954. That’s when the unconstitutional rule known as the ‘Johnson Amendment’ was enacted,” explained Stanley. “Churches are exempt from taxation under the principle that there is no surer way to destroy religion than to begin taxing it. As the U.S. Supreme Court has noted, the power to tax involves the power to destroy. The real effect of the Johnson Amendment is that pastors are muzzled for fear of investigation by the IRS.
Cornerstone World Outreach and its founding pastor, Larry Gordon participated with ADF’s initiative, and they are also spearheading an effort called, Project Jeremiah 2010, to get other churches to encourage their members to vote no on the retention of judges.
Rev. Cary Gordon a member of Cornerstone World Outreach’s pastoral team said in an email sent last week that he hopes the IRS will come for them… actually he prays for it.
My church is under attack…
…and I’m okay with that.
I just thought you may appreciate the recent national-level attack launched against our ministry (see link below) today. Please find below, my response to all media outlets.
Together, cooperating with the grace of God…we can restore America! Please pass this along to those who can pray.
Pray that the IRS will mercilessly attack my church, so that we may sue them and take it to the Supreme Court of the United States…for victory.
My greatest fear is that they (IRS) may be cowards, just like so many religious leaders.
He then notes the Catch 22 that many evangelicals find themselves in:
When we speak of our deepest core Christian beliefs in a PUBLIC forum, we are often accused of “shoving our religion down people’s throats.” When we speak of those EXACT SAME beliefs INSIDE our own churches, we are often accused of “bringing politics into the church!” We tire of the hypocrisy of those who seek to ensconce SECULAR HUMANISM as the STATE RELIGION of the United States of America, in violation of the original intent of the 1st Amendment.
Go get them Pastor Gordon!